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Why Starlight?

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So, why a “Starlight” Journal? What is it about starlight that is so important? Like everything in this journal, the name is not an accident.Yes, it’s pretty and enchanting, but it’s also more intentional than that. And yet, it is intentional in ways that I’ve only come to realize well after I named the project. Originally, it just sounded right. Even more strangely, I later discovered the meaning behind the name I had already chosen as a result of things having (I thought) nothing at all to do with this project...the universe works in mysterious ways, my friends.

Back to the original question- what is it that is so important about the stars? That turns out to be a more complicated question than it first appears. It’s bigger on the inside.

For one, there’s not a human being alive who can lay outside, stare up at the blanket of glittering stars dotting the void in front of them, and not feel awe in the original sense of the word.

Awe-struck, that is. Inspired, energized, impossibly insignificant and tiny compared to the vastness of the universe, and yet simultaneously meaningful and oh so ALIVE. It’s a transcendent experience; a universally transcendent experience, in fact.

“And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” -Friedrich Nietzsche


This Nietzsche quote comes with a lot of speculation as to its meaning. One possible and popular interpretation is that you become what you focus on, which is true. He’s probably talking about the metaphorical or psychological abyss here, but I think the same holds true when you gaze at the literal abyss- the open expanse of stars in the sky. You become that vast and inspiring universe. Or rather, you realize that you already are. The chemical components that make up life on our planet, including the blood that runs through our veins, is only formed in a dying star. And stars at varying levels of decay are what you see when you look up on a clear night. You’re watching the glittering dance of the universe-- its continual growth and evolution and decay; a thing with which every one of us is inextricably linked. We ARE the universe in ecstatic motion. Every one of us. We are the ecstatic dance of ancient stardust, looking up and focusing on the void and realizing that we are continually becoming, and already are, ancient stardust ourselves.

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When you gaze upon the glittering night sky, you at once realize just how small you are compared to the expansive abyss above. At the same time you also realize that you, the tiny individual, are both made of and a part of the whole that is this vast and powerful universe, literally and metaphorically. If you gaze too long at the universe, I think you become one with it-- or maybe more accurately, you realize that you always were one in being. And that is both a powerful and humbling experience. Which, really, I believe everyone should experience as regularly as possible. So the stars are immeasurably important for facilitating this sort of transcendent experience. Gazing at the stars makes us better humans.

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And then there is the light. Everything always comes back to the light--the name of my business, the name of this journal, even the name of my chosen medium (“photography” means “light writing”).  

It might seem a bit strange at first for the focus of a very dark, nocturnal adventure to be the light. But it’s true. You need the darkest dark in fact, the places with the least light pollution, to see the most light in the sky. Darkness and light are two sides of the same coin: darkness is only scientifically the absence of light, in a physical sense. So, in a way, of course you need to go through the darkest dark to find the metaphorical light within yourself as well. You need the darkness because without it there is no true light. The hero is always born at the height of chaos in the story, because the chaos and darkness is what creates the conditions that require a hero, or light, in the first place. This is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the ultimate hero, at the winter solstice. Because the hero is always born at the height of darkness. And this is where the theories on that Nietzsche quote can get really interesting, because right before he says “when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” is a line about monsters- a warning not to become the monster you seek to destroy.

Metaphorically speaking, Nietzsche’s abyss is most likely our own darkness. And in many ways, we do have to face our own darkness; descend into our own darkness, and ultimately overcome it, in order to truly find and embody our own light.  

Light is always the highest good. The light illuminates- both literally and figuratively, and that is good. God said “Let there be light,” and it was good.  Because knowledge is what allows us to grow figuratively, and light from the sun creates heat and life and physical growth. Fire and light further are tools that humans have mastered to allow us to advance knowledge and technology in unprecedented ways. You can literally learn more if you have candlelight (or electricity) that allows you to spend more time reading and learning.

Just like physical darkness is the absence of light (and in a way, vis versa), and so one cannot exist without the other, good and evil (the human capacity for darkness and light) must also exist as two sides of the same coin. In order to have the highest good, we must also necessarily have the lowest evil. One cannot exist without the other.

Furthermore, in order to ensure that we are choosing the light, we must first face the darkness. We must acknowledge that the darkness is an equal option. Otherwise it’s not a choice, it’s a default.  And we cannot take credit for a default. We must gaze into the abyss of our own darkness, and instead of letting it consume us, instead of becoming the monster we seek to destroy, we must choose to focus on the lights that dot the abyss like stars. Because if we focus on the light, we become the light.

Maybe there is something to the act of gazing at the stars that physically mimics the metaphorical, and so we feel that awe and power resonate in our souls when we stargaze-- for the beauty is almost always terrifying, too. The terror of space and darkness could just as easily consume us if we let it. And yet, laying on blankets and gazing up, surrounded by the darkest night we can find, we do not look in fear at the empty blackness of space. Instead, we look to the light of the stars. And we delight in their light.

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For it is always the light of the stars that guides us along. In terms of movement and navigation, the stars have always been the guide, shining like beacons in the night. Their light orients sailors, and guides them along their way. If you are lost, whether in a forest or at sea, or even just within your own soul, the thing to do is always to look to the heavens- look to the familiar and steady lights in the sky, orient yourself, and follow them home.


Since ancient times, we humans have always looked to the steadfast stars glittering above us to light our way in a real and literal sense. But even as we evolve our technology, and the light of our cities drowns the light of the stars, there is still a significant but metaphorical way that we use the stars as guides: we wish on them.


It sounds fanciful- the stuff of fairy tales. But fairy tales are usually true in profound ways. A wish on a star is more than a delivery order to heaven. A wish on a star is in fact the embodiment of finding the highest physical light (which represents the highest metaphorical good, because lightness IS always goodness), orienting ourselves towards that highest good, and following it home. Once you name the highest good you can imagine in your wish, then you have your orienting point, and your guiding light. It is only once you determine where you’re going that you can determine how to get there. So, we wish on stars. We pronounce our destination to the universe, and then we use that wish to guide us to it, just like sailors following the stars home. And that is no more an accident than the name of the Starlight Journal.

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Get your copy of the journal here, and let this starlight help to guide you to your highest good.


This month’s shop release is also my favorite line from this article, so if it resonates with you especially, grab that line on a print, mug, tshirt, or other home decor item here. And as a bonus, get the design on the back of the Starlight Journal, which for me so embodies the importance of following the light, in the shop as well.

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Thank you, as ever, for your support and interest in this blog, my creative musings, and my creative work. If you’d like to support this blog, consider grabbing a product from the shop like the Ancient Stardust or the I Create Myself pieces featured today, or consider supporting my creative work in general on Patreon. Learn more about that here.

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One Sacrifice Away

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As a freelance photographer, I frequently do contract work for Amazon. As of January 1, 2018, cell phones were banned in the Amazon warehouse and studio, blanket statement. Deal with it or leave. Which….some days, is really annoying. Especially at first, it was terrible. Everyone hated it. And everyone I’ve told about this rule, to this day, is baffled. “What? You cannot have your cell phone? What madness!” It seems like a huge sacrifice. But sometimes, with great sacrifice, comes great reward…

See, on the Amazon studio days, we have scheduled 15 minute breaks. And I am not one for whom idleness is tolerable….almost at all. I’m seemingly incapable of just sitting for 15 minutes. Occasionally you chat with coworkers, but even while chatting, my hands usually itch for something to do. So I started bringing in crossword puzzle books, and then my sketchbook. Specifically, at some point in my early art school days, I had obtained a small simple black 5x7 or so sized sketchbook. It was half filled. And then at some point in school I started using bigger ones and so this half empty book just was there on my shelf. Until one day last January, I grabbed it on my way out the door.

When I had downtime that day, I flipped through to see what was in the book from the years and years before. Browsing partly out of curiosity and partly out of a search for something else to do, I came across a series of pages that contained only stark outlines of varying shapes- a wine bottle, a leaf, an apple, etc. I came to the page with the apple and decided, for fun, to shade the apple and fill it in. So I grabbed my pencil and did that.

By the time I had added the dimension to the apple, it reminded me of the Tell City cover apple. As an added touch, I inscribed the classic Tell City phrase, “One Sacrifice Away.” But I still had time to kill. So I continued with my Tell City theme, and added an arrow piercing the apple, in classic William Tell fashion.

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These lines (also featured on the back cover of the hardcover dust jacket) have always been some of my VERY FAVORITE lines, not just of Tell City, but possibly of all fantasy writing. They manage to evocatively echo and reverberate both backwards and forwards in time, calling up many ancient myths, and also pushing forward into the unknown misty landscape.

The part that evokes Snow White in particular, combined with the imagery of a reflection in a well (which would naturally ripple) has always appeared in my imagination as a rippling mirror, that blurs the lines of surrealism. Is it a mirror? Is it water? Is the apple floating? Or reflected? Or all of the above?

So, with my favorite “One Sacrifice Away” quote swirling around in my mind, I added a rippling ornate mirror to the background of the now definitely Tell City fan art piece I had stumbled my way into drawing. I actually had originally envisioned adding a light shadowy panther’s face into the mirror as well, but I ran out of time.

When I left work and got back to my phone, I took a quick photo of the drawing and sent it to Kay, who I imagine squealed with delight to see it. With the distance, time, and extra perspective, I ultimately decided that to try and add the panther into the image would be overdoing it, so I left it as it was. Sometimes good art is knowing where to draw the line. (ha!)

If you have a copy of Tell City (and if you don’t, get thee hence to Amazon and grab a copy! Or click here.), you know that this drawing wound up in the intro pages to the novel- a thing of which I am immensely proud. I might actually even be more honored to have my artwork featured inside the book than to have my designs on the cover. “Cover designer” is a thing I am certain I am good at. I love doing it, and I’m confident in my ability to craft magical and enchanting book cover designs. “Graphite realistic surreal fan art drawer,” on the other hand, is something that surprised me. I hadn’t hand drawn anything in graphite in a long long while, and even in the heyday of my art school days, I was never particularly quick or skilled with realistic graphite drawings. I could manage it, usually, but it was always a struggle. This piece, however, just seemed to flow from my brain to the pencil to the page with unprecedented ease. Perhaps it was the reward for my sacrifice of not having my phone that day to waste time scrolling on….

Aside from being featured in the book (or perhaps, because it is featured in the book), when it came time to design Tell City merch, including this drawing was a bit of a no brainer. By that point, we had already paired the apple drawing in the front of the book with the poem that was a message from the oracle, and so as a bonus, all of the merchandise that has a back, features that poem on the back as well. And so, aside from having it in your copy of the book (Again, grab that here if you don’t have it already!) , you can also get this enchanting drawing on virtually any home good product or accessory you can image, or in a print. (If you want a signed archival fine art print, send me a message here- otherwise grab one printed on demand at the shop!) My personal favorite are the leggings!

Hopefully it resonates with you the same way it does with me.

You can support this blog (plus a local independent author) by purchasing and repping any of the products in the shop here. Or by buying the novel here (and share your reviews with us on social media!) You can also support this blog and my general creative endeavors and musings by becoming a Patreon supporter. Learn more about that here. Thanks for stopping by!

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I am the Captain of My Soul

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INVICTUS

BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY

Out of the night that covers me,

       Black as the pit from pole to pole, 

I thank whatever gods may be 

      For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 

      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 

Under the bludgeonings of chance 

      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 

      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 

And yet the menace of the years 

      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 

      How charged with punishments the scroll, 

I am the master of my fate, 

      I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley was a Scottish poet who faced no shortage of hardship in his life. He contracted tuberculosis of the bone at the age of twelve. Then when he was seventeen, his lower leg and foot had to be amputated because of the progression of the disease. In his early twenties he spent twenty months in the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary due to further complications, in which he almost lost his other leg, and during which he wrote Invictus and many other poems. He was friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, and when Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, years later, he based the complex jovial character of Long John Silver on Henley. So, interestingly enough, many people know at least the last line in Henley’s poem, and almost everyone has at least heard of Long John Silver. I would argue that few people know that they both came from the same man and his incidental hardships in a Scottish hospital.

“Invictus” means “unconquerable” in Latin, and Henley certainly did have an unconquerable spirit in the face of his arbitrarily dealt life blows. Even in the face of death, his spirit seems unbowed. That indomitable spirit certainly made an impression on Lous Stevenson at least. And the thing that stands out most clearly to me is that this spirit is a clear choice he has made. And it’s a choice we can all make.

In the face of the terrible stormy seas of life and whatever turbulent and absurd waves fate throws our way, we can either choose to cower in fear, or we can choose to be the captains of our own souls.

For me this is a clear connection to the stars and the compass, which are featured in my art piece. When I make art, I don’t usually know where I’m going with it when I set out (ironically). In this case, I was hugely inspired by a chandelier I had seen on Pinterest from a celestial photoshoot, and, with time to kill and my sketchbook and pencil at the bar of my favorite coffee shop, I simply started sketching, first with the moon and stars garland, and then the compass emerged as well. Later I blended the line work with the watercolor and starry sky photograph as the background, and added the gold foil letters from Henley’s poem at the last minute on rather a whim. It simply felt like the two went together, just as well as the compass goes with the stars.

The stars and navigation are a truly remarkable thing, when you think about it. Because the stars, being fixed points in the sky, are what sailors and sea captains have used for most of human history to literally orient themselves and navigate to their destinations. But it’s not just literal. Our myths and stories have a long history of the idea of wishing on stars; essentially, metaphorically using the stars to orient ourselves and navigate to our metaphorical (or perhaps metaphysical) destinations.

Maybe the metaphorical use derives from the literal use in the first place. It’s a bit hard to say. Because the idea of light and stars as guides is so deeply embedded in human mythology that it’s hard to say which came first. Lucifer was the morning star, after all, God’s highest angel, and that tale is as old as time itself.

So, we mere mortals aim for the stars. We shoot for them, you might even say. Because the stars are the highest possible good we can conceive of. And perhaps because we have been using the stars to orient ourselves physically since the dawn of time too, so why not this too?

But there’s something else implied in this sort of navigation; this captaining of our own souls, and it is this: we get to choose the direction in which we sail. Metaphorically we are all captains of our souls, whether we take up that mantle with courage and forthrightness or not, it remains true. And that means that we choose the bearings. Or else we drift, aimless and lost, because the waters are constantly shifting beneath us either way.

So, in order not to drift aimlessly, in order to not run aground and destroy the ship, we choose our goals, and we use the stars and compass to navigate our way there. More than that though, we choose the spirit with which we follow those goals, in the face of inevitable dangers and even that horrific shade of certain death. In fact, it is the certainty of our own mortality that helps us to determine what we want to do with the precious few moments we have on this planet in the first place. So in a way, choosing a goal at all means metaphorically staring death in the face and proceeding anyways.

It’s a good reminder for us all, especially at the end of another January, when New Years resolutions made with bright eyed hope begin to look more like the arduous tasks of change they almost always are (at least the ones worth doing), that no matter how narrow the road in front of us, no matter how difficult the winds and the waters, no matter how strait the gate, we still get to choose our own destinations, and we get to choose the spirit with which we set sail.

May we all remember to be the masters of our own fates and the captains of our own souls.

Behind the scenes shot- Chai Tea Latte, Pinterest, and a sketchbook. Bliss.

Behind the scenes shot- Chai Tea Latte, Pinterest, and a sketchbook. Bliss.

The final pen and ink drawing that became the line work in this piece.

The final pen and ink drawing that became the line work in this piece.

Part of the watercolor piece that later integrated with an astrophotography photo to become the background for this piece.

Part of the watercolor piece that later integrated with an astrophotography photo to become the background for this piece.

Close up of the final piece.

Close up of the final piece.

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To support this blog, and to adorn your everyday life with this reminder to captain your own soul, visit my shop and get it on a pillow, travel mug, notebook, etc, here.

To support this blog and my artistic work in general, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon, here.

Love and light, creatives.

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5 Things That Inspire Me

This blog was originally written and published by me on the blog of The Hatch, on December 28th, 2016. View the original post here.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes, it hits you out of nowhere; in the shower, while you’re driving, or while you’re trying to fall asleep. And it’s all you can do to get the new amazing idea down on paper because your heart and mind are racing with the overwhelming excitement of it all.

Other times you sit for hours and stare at a bank piece of paper…. just waiting for all the ideas you had three days ago to come back and present themselves articulately so you can write, paint, draw, or whatever your chosen medium is. As a lifelong artist just starting out on a more full time and serious creative entrepreneurial journey, never has this been more of a problem for me.

Luckily, other creatives have gone before me, and from reading their works and listening to their talks (shoutout to Liz Gilbert, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowling especially), I have learned that there are a few things I can always fall back on when I need a little help chasing down that fleeting wonderful moment that is inspiration.

#1- Find a story. There is nothing more inspiring to me than a story. Books, poems, songs, short stories, long novels, folk tales, fairy tales. Stories of all kinds are the most inspiring things to me.

I have been a bookworm all my life and have always been interested in “nerdy” things and stories like Alice in Wonderland and Doctor Who.  I am particularly interested in what are usually considered “children’s” fantasy stories: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid. I believe that these types of stories are relevant for everyone not only because they tell truths of the human condition which resonate with us all, but also because they tell them in beautiful ways that really capture our imaginations and can be understood by everyone. To paraphrase what GK Chesterton once said, fairytales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. And there is something immensely powerful and magical in that.


#2- Get myself to the sea or to the stars. Nature in general is always a great revival and refresher for the soul, especially in our fast paced, glorification-of-busy lives. I think to some degree we are all suffering from perpetual burnout, and nothing has ever been a better cure for that than to just put down our phones and get outside and present with the physical world and our bodies. For me though, the water and the stars are always especially inspiring. There is something so truly awe-inspiring, so universal, so amazing, about standing and just watching the awesome power of the ocean, or watching the endless glittering dance of the stars. It always makes me feel both immensely alive and great, and immensely humbled and tiny all at the same time. These two great natural wonders always put everything in perspective and help me to remember what is truly important.

#3- Ordinary people living extraordinary lives in a hundred little ways are a huge inspiration to me as well. Maybe this is just “stories” in a different way, but people who are passionate, from an amazing biopic about Walt Disney, to the woman who lives down the street and lives for her beautiful garden, never cease to amaze me. The human spirit is just so inspiring. The best example of this is my own Grandfather, who was the single most inspiring person I have ever personally known. An Armenian born in Jerusalem, and raised in abject poverty, he made his way out of that life, came to America, and built a remarkable life for himself, creating a family legacy of grace, determination, curiosity, love, and laughter. By his own example, he taught his family that it matters not where or what someone is born, but who they grow to be. I would truly not be the person I am today without my Grandpa’s fine example, and for that I will always be grateful and inspired.

#4- Speaking of being indebted to others, I truly believe that creative collaboration/brainstorming is one of the most inspiring things anyone can do. And you don’t actually have to be in the same room to creatively collaborate. Books allow us to collaborate, in a sense, with storytellers and inspiring people who lived halfway around the world a hundred years ago, but I still consider that a collaboration of sorts, because it is a meeting of equal minds, and results in a new blending of ideas that can produce new exciting things. Which is truly a little magical, when you think about it. But it doesn’t even have to be as esoteric as that. The digital age allows us to connect to amazing artists all around the world with the click of a button. Pinterest, for example, is flooded with truly astoundingly beautiful art. And if I am ever in a particular creative pickle, it is the first place I look to for instant inspiration. Just being surrounded by other creative ideas and beautiful artwork, whether in a museum, a bookstore, a gallery, or on Pinterest, I find myself instantly refreshed, inspired, and in awe.

#5- My final inspiration (and this is a new lesson that I recently had to learn), comes in the form of meditation and/or yoga, which is also essentially just prayer. Taking time to deliberately switch OFF and recharge, is so important that I could never stress it enough. And it is so much harder and so much more rewarding than it sounds. It is a constant practice and lesson of balance, and I’m certain it is something I will have to consciously work on for the rest of my life. But, when you think about it, unless you slow down sometimes, those moments of inspiration can never truly find you. Sometimes you have to slow down, be still, and give up on chasing the ideas, to let them come to you. This exact principle explains why those most brilliant ideas hit you just as you are drifting off to sleep, or while you are in the shower or driving on a long trip, because in those moments your brain is relaxed; and in that relaxation and stillness, inspiration has the space to come rushing in.

So there you have it: Stories, nature, ordinary people, other art, and being still. I guess when you boil it down, what I am really inspired by is anything that is wondrous, and curious, and beautiful. Those are the stories that I love to hear and discover. And as a visual storyteller, these are the stories that I love to tell.

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Why a Starlight Journal? Part 2

At the end of part one of this story, I had just really come to terms with the fact that I needed to build some structure into my life. Because structure is the masculine energy that holds space for and therefore protects the feminine flow and creativity. I had all of the creativity and flow, but it was a raging river with no banks, and I was drowning in it.

I needed to build some banks to organize and contain and direct the flow. I needed some structure. So I set out to find some. I set out to find a planner to keep myself more organized. But like, one that I would actually use. Because, we’ve all had planners before that were great, and really should have been useful, but that just sat unused on the desk for one reason or the other They were the wrong size, or too restrictive, or too boring, or too open, or included budgets and workflows, but no space for appointments or gratitude, or were flimsy and broke down easily, or were too bulky to carry around, etc etc etc.

So I looked and looked for months. And bought SO MANY different planners trying to find one that would actually work; that actually included everything I needed. I wanted it to include budget tracking and also income and expense tracking. I wanted it to include meal planning and grocery lists. I wanted it to include space to just dump all of my chaotic thoughts out of my brain and onto the page so that they could be organized. I wanted it to be large enough to be useful, but small enough to be reasonably portable (so that I could have it with me and record every expense in the same place, every task and thought in ONE place, rather than the dozen half used notebooks I was currently using).

I wanted it to include uplifting and inspiring quotes and images. I wanted it to be beautiful enough that I would *want* to take it with me everywhere and want to use it.

I wanted it to have a place to focus on gratitude, because focusing on gratitude every day has actually changed my life.

I wanted each daily section to be large enough to write sufficient to-dos, but only actually have space for 5 things per day, because I know that trying to accomplish more than 5 things in a day very often just leaves you disappointed and hating yourself. (Realistic goals, people. It’s key!) I wanted to be able to map out my week at a glance, and my month at a glance, on one page. And I wanted it to still include creativity, fun, play. I wanted it to actually balance both masculine and feminine, especially since I knew that my own energies were so out of balance.

And here’s the other thing- while I personally was skewed wayyyy towards feminine energy and chaos, I was encountering a LOT of people that were actually skewed the opposite way. They were so rigid and structured that it was hurting them. And so I thought….as much as I need to incorporate more masculine energy, maybe the people who need to incorporate more feminine flow energy could also find balance by using something like this. Something that allowed them to plan and have structure, but also encouraged them to build creative flow into that structure.

But actually I'm getting ahead of myself now. What happened first was that one day while driving home from work after finding and researching yet another planner online that I thought could maybe be the one but of course was not, it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning:

I could just make it….

I'm getting long winded again, I know, I know. My stories are all exposition. Hopefully, you like hearing them anyways! ;) Stay tuned for part three! 

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Why a Starlight Journal?

So, I have a confession. I’ve never used a bullet journal before. Or rather, I didn’t use a bullet journal until I got the first proof copy of the Starlight Journal. Which rather begs the question, why did I make an illustrated bullet journal for myself? And the answer is a bit convoluted, to be honest. And it starts three years ago.

Three years ago I went through a mindset bootcamp program, of sorts, in an effort to figure out how the hell this thing called “adulting” works. I felt (like most people probably feel even still) that I had absolutely nothing under control, and didn’t know how to do anything. I had a job that I basically loved as a full time product photographer, but it didn’t pay me enough to even keep a budget. Because the math just could not work. There wasn’t enough. I was overdrafting my bank account regularly, trying to keep to a shoestring budget, and paying too much in rent and in debt repayment. I was single and lonely and I knew it was all wrapped up together, because who would want to even be with someone who was so much of a mess? I knew that something had to change but I had no idea what or how or where to start.

Enter something called the Dating Mindset Bootcamp, which was really not very much about dating and was very much about how to be in your best mindset for your best self. Going through the Bootcamp taught me for the first time about masculine and feminine energies and how we need to balance BOTH to have a good relationship with ourselves and therefore with others. If you have absolutely zero structure (masculine), then you are nothing but chaos (feminine), and while we do need some chaos to keep growing and to keep life interesting, too much of it is just as bad as too much structure and order.

The other thing I learned (or learned to see in a different light) was that I was waaaayyyyy chaotic. Like, the thing is that I am a pretty feminine person. I love dresses and frills and flowers. I love art and beauty and love. I’m obsessed with water, which is archetypically associated with the feminine in almost every single instance. I’m clearly very artistic and creative. I love arts, music, dance, and anything that flows. I’m terrible at time (which is very masculine), I’m SUPER emotional. One of my best friends astutely proclaimed one day on the phone that I “just feel almost everything profoundly,” and I think that’s 100% correct. It’s amazing some days and terrible other days, and it makes me very empathetic, loving, patient, and kind. All of these are good things. But being terrible at math (so, finances), and being terrible at knowing how time works, and having emotions so strong that they can take over my afternoon is often not so good.

I needed to build some structure into my life. I recognized that. Because structure is the masculine energy that holds space for and therefore protects the feminine flow and creativity. I had all of the creativity and flow, but it was a raging river with no banks, and I was drowning in it. I needed to build some banks to organize and contain and direct the flow. I needed some structure. So I set out to find some. I set out to find a planner to keep myself more organized... 

This is a long story, my friends, so I'm going to pause here for now. Stay tuned for the next blog post to read on!

(And in the meantime, since this story is such a throwback, enjoy this major throwback photo from when I went to visit my cousins in California. I had those flip flops in high school!)

jimmy buffet california ocean photo

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Why Underwater?

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” - Loren Einsley

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Water is magic, in a sense. It is literally life bringing, life sustaining, and -can be- life ending. Water is beauty, power, grace, flow, divinity, creation, destruction, patience, awesome, fearsome, the source of all life and the thing that sustains life as we know it here on earth. It is the key ingredient.

Because it is literally all these awe-inspiring things, it is easy to associate it with the divine, and to see it as magical and otherworldly.

It’s even easier to associate it with divine mysticism when we realize that the oceans are still mostly a deep, unknown, mystery. Dip beneath the waves and your vision is changed, your hearing is changed, your air is gone, and gravity and light behave differently. It is about as close to another world as we earthlings can physically get.

 

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It’s no small wonder then, that psychologically speaking, water is representative of the divine feminine- of chaos, creation, power, beauty, flow, and life. The parallels are so self evident that they are universal. Every human on any corner of the earth at any point in time inherently understands the power, magic, and divinity of water.

Perhaps because of this universality, or perhaps they are just to intrinsically linked to ever untangle which came first, but either way, psychologist Carl Jung identifies water as the collective universal subconscious. Water is the dream state. The unknown and unknowable but beautiful alien realm. And that’s no wonder either, since whether we are daydreaming of a day at the beach,  or fighting night terrors of floods in our basement, water is the stuff of dreams both wonderful and terrifying.

The subconscious is a place to sort out the things that we know but we don’t quite know we know, or don’t yet quite understand. Much like the process of making art, it is chaotic, mysterious, and when it’s wonderful, it flows magically.

underwater photography art composite

For all of these reasons (plus my own personal divine Moana-like calling to the sea), I cannot think of a better realm in which to explore my work than in the flowing, brilliant, mysterious, fantasy land of dreams, the subconscious, and the divine that is the underwater realm. A better marriage of subject matter and setting would be difficult even to dream up.

And besides, as everyone knows, if there’s magic on this earth, it is definitely contained in water.  

 

To support my creative journey into the waters of unknown and light, visit my Patreon. 

underwater photography magic

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Why Fantasy?

Stories, particularly myths, legends, and fantasy,  are how we as humans examine, explore, and ultimately explain the human condition.

The editors of the book Fantasy offer a profound take on the merit of fantasy literature (and by extension, all fantasy art.) They state that fantasy authors create new worlds in order to rid their readers of preconceptions and prejudices that are found in day-to-day life. By removing these biases, moral standards and truths can be examined in new, fresh, ways, and hopefully, lessons can be learned that would otherwise be out of reach.

In his article “Children and Fairy Stories,” JRR Tolkien argues for the validity of fantasy as a genre in literature. Fantasy in this and most cases includes everything from ancient myths and legends, to folklore, to the classic fairy tales, to Tolkien’s own The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

Tolkien makes the point that “the goal of fantasy is to lead the reader to a keener understanding of himself and his world.” The idea being that in the fictional work can be found deeper truths about the world around us. So by reading the story, we can better understand ourselves and our world.

RG Collingwood demands almost the same exact thing of art in general in his aesthetics. He claims that the artist proper works with the world from beginning to end to help the world see what he (the artist) sees; to help them find out things about themselves through the art.

He says that the artist, instead of being “the great man who imposes upon the world the task of understanding him, will be a humbler person, imposing upon himself the task of understanding his world, and thus enabling it to understand itself.”

My personal hope is always that people viewing my work in the context of the new fresh combination of technique and media will perhaps gain some insight into themselves or their world. (I’ll get into my technique a little more in detail in some later blog posts, so stay tuned!)

So, where does fantasy come from? What is its history? (Other than a long history of British writers defending it.) The short answer to this question is ‘human imagination.’

However, I am a little more concerned with its historical origins and how it has developed across time. For as long as there have been humans, presumably those humans have always strived to explain themselves and their world.

There are records as far back as 2000 B.C. of fantastical stories in Ancient Egypt, including one that is essentially the story of Cinderella. The myths and legends of Ancient Greece are, if not actually common knowledge, certainly not lost to the ages.

What is most fascinating to me is that across all borders of time and geography, humanity continuously comes up with essentially the same mythological and magical stories. If we keep writing this story, the very fact of its repetition begs us to ask why? What value does it hold to us? To ALL of us; all humans everywhere and at every time. There must be something worthwhile in there.

The description of “the story of an uninitiated young hero who must voluntarily battle and outwit forces much greater than himself in order to return home” can be applied to everything from Gilgamesh to Odysseus to Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker.

With only a little bit of a stretch, that description could even apply to everyday people in their everyday lives. Often in everyday life we encounter and must overcome forces greater than ourselves in order to simply survive the day and get back home.  My own entrepreneurial journey certainly fits this bill. Many relationships fit this bill. We are continuously going out there into dangerous unknown territory (either literally or psychologically/metaphysically) and back again to safety.

Fairy tales, the ancestor and cousin of modern fantasy literature (and quite often the inspiration), are often the same story again as the even more ancient myths, though perhaps slightly less fantastical. Often it is not a literal dragon that the Princess must fight, but everyday evil people, and metaphorical dragons. In some cases, she must face the slightly less commonplace evil magical Queen or Jabberwocky. In this way, Fairytales can usually be seen as a step closer to reality.

Magic is always involved in Fairy tales, but with that exception, the tales could take place in our own world, as opposed to in Middle Earth or in galaxies far far away. Even those that end up in Wonderland usually begin and end here in our world.

The best aspect about fantasy stories of all sorts is that they parallel real life. I suspect that this is why they are so popular, and why since the dawn of time, humans have been compelled to tell such stories. This is what makes them so valuable.

Whether the evil in the story takes the form of dragons, evil queens, or simply nasty step-sisters, there is evil present, just as there is in the real world. And by watching the heroes of our stories bravely face and conquer their dragons and evils, we are instilled with the inner strength and courage to conquer our own "dragons."

As G.K. Chesterton famously stated, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

By seeing metaphorical versions of our own challenges successfully overcome, we begin to believe that we too can face our own metaphorical dragons. If Alice can face a Jabberwocky, we can stand up to the bully on the playground, or the coworker taking advantage of us. We too can believe in “impossible” things. And there is magic and value in that, you can be sure.

 

To support my artistic excursions into fantasy, please visit my Patreon. 

alice final.jpg

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Why My Art?

Dear Creative Soul,

Welcome, welcome dear brand new blog reader, to my own personal Neverland: Lusicovi Creative; here there be mermaids!

My name is Elise, and I am an Enchantment Photographer. Capturing wonder and creating enchantment is my specialty. I am a giant nerd and am fascinated by stories, the sea, the stars, and exploring questions like "why are we here?" and "what is the human condition?" and "why are we all still SO universally drawn to fairytales?"

My artwork is always literary inspired with a bohemian feel. I believe that both fantasy art and fantasy writing are incredibly important, because they allow us to explore very real problems in a safe space. Voldemort does not exist, but Hitler did. Evil Queens and step mothers don't (usually) exist, but surly bosses and prickly landlords do. And as CS Lewis once said, "Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."

I have a lot of other people’s thoughts (and a few of my own) on the value of art in general (For more on that, read my first ever blog post here.), and that is all well and good. But still, a curious brain like mine, which is always asking “why everything” cannot be satisfied without also answering why this art in particular?

And the most honest answer is actually: I don’t know.

Or maybe, I don’t know yet.

Or maybe I do know already. Somewhere on some lower level that I cannot properly express. Because, in truth, the ideas just come to me, usually almost fully formed. And usually formed in ways that I don’t consciously understand how exactly to create them when I start out in the process of creating them.

I don’t always know where they come from, but I have noticed that they do usually come from other art, stories, and myths. They come from archetypes. Maybe, actually probably, in a lot of ways, they are themselves archetypes. The Pandora Series that I created as my college thesis certainly was archetypal. (Stay tuned to this blog for more on that later!)

Archetypal or not, they call to me to be created, like the sea calls to Moana. And just like her, the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. I just have to trust that following the inspirations will bring me to where I need to be. And so far, they haven’t been wrong yet.

This is why, above all, I believe in the value of art to inspire and challenge us, children and adults alike, artists and viewers alike, readers and writers alike.

And I would like to think that my art, by exploring these big ideas about who we are as humans, why we do the things we do, and what amazing magical things we are capable of, can inspire others to re-examine what they think they know about the world and about themselves, and that together we can all learn and grow a little more.

I believe in spreading magic, beauty, love, & light, so that together we can inspire and empower the world, and I cannot do this work without your love and support. I appreciate more than words can say the support, the encouragement, and anyone who believes in this same mission, and I honor your part in allowing me to continue spreading this inspiring message and truly living my artistic life.  

To support my ever evolving artistic career, and to help me create the inspiring visions that come to me, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or check out how you can work with me as an artist or photographer here.

And of course, stay tuned to this blog (or subscribe to my email newsletter here) to see many more art pieces, and to read many more thoughts and musings about the value of art, the process of my art, magical stories, and many more exciting projects that I have in the works. If you have any feedback, I would love to hear it. Just send me an email at lusicovicreative@gmail.com.  


Love and light, always,

Elise

 

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Why Art?

The Earth, without Art, is just “eh.” This line is better than just a fun play on words, because it’s true. Art brings color, light, and awe to the world. It is transcendent. At least, good art is. It can make you think, wake you up, give you new avenues to explore, and bring you to an encounter with the divine.

There’s a great line in the movie Dead Poets Society that really captures this:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love...these are what we stay alive for.”

Good art usually encapsulates all four; poetry, beauty, romance, and love, in one way or another.

Life is hard, just at the baseline. Humans are vulnerable beings. Every single one of us battles misfortune, disease, mother nature, and eventually time. We need art, beauty, wonder, romance, and love to make the dullness and drudgery of life worth living through.

That may all sound woefully depressing to you, but I don’t see it that way. Because, really, we cannot change anything about the baseline state of life. We can change our communities, and the world, if we are very ambitious, sure. But we cannot change the facts that disease and mother nature and plain old bad luck exists. As Neil Gaiman says in his famous Make Good Art commencement speech, “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.”  

We cannot eliminate the struggle or vulnerability or disease or death that comes with life (and even if we could, do we really want to? Don’t the bad times make the good things better? Just as there can be no light without darkness?) We cannot truly stop time from marching ever onward. But what we can do is make our time here worthwhile.

We can make our lives worthwhile. By creating beauty, wonder, love, and transcendent  experiences for ourselves and our fellow struggling humans. We can encounter the divine in spite of the hard toil of life, sometimes even because of it. We can make good art. And that can make all the difference.

Art is divine because to make art is to create something; to pull something into existence when before there was nothing. It is to participate in an actual act of creation. And to properly view and engage with a piece of art that anyone has created is to bear witness to an unfathomable act of creation.

“Abracadabra” means “I create as I speak.” And what could be more magical, more divine, more poetic, than speaking and acting so as to bring a piece of art and beauty into being? No wonder it makes up for the “eh.”

My mom and I visiting the Van Gogh exhibit in Chicago, April of 2016. <3

My mom and I visiting the Van Gogh exhibit in Chicago, April of 2016. <3

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